Mars Unearthed: The Art of Sustainable Resource Crafting Beyond Our Horizon

Mars Unearthed: The Art of Sustainable Resource Crafting Beyond Our Horizon
Mars Unearthed: The Art of Sustainable Resource Crafting Beyond Our Horizon
By Abigail Glover
In the realm of science fiction exploration, a new generation of researchers is emerging, ready to tackle the challenges of human permanence beyond Earth. Among them is Hooman Reza Nezhad, a remarkable high school senior and an ISRU (In-situ Resource Utilization) researcher collaborating with the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. His journey began roughly four years ago with a theoretical project on eco-friendly propellants and the quest to produce safer ammonia-based fuels. This study, combined with his fascination for the Perseverance rover and colonizing Mars, has led him to the forefront of space resource research.
While many scientists focus on Mars’ atmospheric carbon dioxide for sourcing oxygen, Reza Nezhad’s study is redefining how we perceive the extraction of resources on Mars to gather more gases and materials from the inhospitable surface. "Rather than relying solely on atmospheric extraction, I'm focusing on breaking down surface-level regolith. Through electrochemical methods, we can extract oxygen while retaining vital metals," Reza Nezhad stated.
Over the past year, he has been developing a Mars regolith-based molten-salt electrochemical cell capable of extracting metals and oxygen without resorting to the traditional method of melting regolith at extreme temperatures. By using a modified Iron (III) oxide powder and a LiCl-KCl-CaCl2 eutectic melt, he demonstrated the viability of his approach at a relatively low temperature of 350℃, preventing long-term degradation. Through this method, Reza Nezhad has managed to release some (unquantified) amounts of oxygen in gas form while leaving behind precious metals that can then be utilized.
This portion of the study has led to international recognition, including awards in nanotechnology, excellence, merit, report, and more. Reza Nezhad has not only presented in local and national science fairs but has also traveled to present at conferences around the world. This October, he will be competing in his first international fair in Mexico.
Through the next phase of his research, Reza Nezhad plans to better simulate Martian conditions by utilizing Exolith Lab’s high-fidelity regolith simulant. The transition from using pure iron oxide to MGS-1 marks a pivotal alteration in the study to better understand what can be expected on the harsh surface of Mars. The change in simulant is not just a technical shift, but a leap towards accuracy and authenticity. Phase II will see him and his team measuring oxygen content, analyzing losses and production rates, and collaborating with experts from the University of Purdue to delve into the true viability of applying such a process.
"On Mars, ISRU isn't just an option;” Reza Nezhad remarked, “it's a game-changer, a lifeline we must invest in if we're serious about ever achieving long-term habitation on the red planet."
As his journey continues, Reza Nezhad not only pushes the boundaries of scientific understanding but also plays a pivotal role in shaping humanity's destiny beyond Earth. His work demonstrates that innovation is the cornerstone of progress, and collaboration is the bridge to realizing our potential. With each step he takes, Hooman Reza Nezhad is further inspiring the modern generation of what is possible.